December 28, 2010
Dry Narration But Still Fascinating
Wigwam was a single test designed to see how feasible it was to attack submarines with nuclear depth charges. The weapon used was the Mark 90 "Betty" device, a device yielding between 5 and 10 kilotons. This was it's only full fledged test by the military.
The test was conducted on May 14, 1955 in an area of ocean only 500 miles west-southwest of San Diego, CA. Rather than using actual subs for the test, 3 specially built dummy subs called "squaws" wear constructed at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard and towed to the test spot.
Except for the very beginning and end, this film is narrated by the marine biologist in charge of the scientific aspects of the test, Albert Foch. This makes it a fairly dry viewing experience, but the technical data makes it fascinating despite this (if you're into that sort of thing). The story of preparations for the test takes up fully half the film. The rest is the shot itself and some preliminary results.
Incidentally, this weapon was in service from 1952 until 1960, when it was withdrawn. In September 1959 a Mark 90 device was lost off Puget Sound Washington when a US Navy seaplane on patrol crashed in the Pacific. It was never recovered. However it was not fitted with a live warhead when it went down.